Marketers all have different views on what’s going to be the next big thing in digital. It's that shiny new object syndrome, when marketers all focus on one new platform, channel, or tactic. We saw this with mobile apps, when Apple launched its very first iPhone six years ago. Then we saw it again with the launch of Facebook, when all of a sudden every single brand began to launch its own page.
What’s next? What new technology or platform will disrupt the industry? CMO.com reached out to some thought leaders in the digital marketing space and asked them. Here’s what they said.
Ron Faris, CMO, Virgin Mobile
The key is not just to guess what new product or trend is coming, but to also decipher why it’s coming. Wearable tech seems to be a darling candidate, but the rationale goes far beyond simplifying the mobile experience. It gets super intriguing because it digitizes the last product available for mining data: humans.
In our new digital ecosystem, everything from your fridge to your car captures data. And like it or not, the day will come when that fridge will tell your car that you’re out of eggs and make it go get more at the store. Whichever bracelet wins the wearable tech game, it’ll be best for humans. Your personal data will allow others to monitor and influence the thermostat to your life (with your permission, of course). And that data will become valuable to health insurance companies, clinical trialists, and fitness trainers for starters. As the uptake exponentially increases, open APIs in the cloud will insert you into the conversation between your appliances. Your bracelet will tell your fridge to forget the eggs because your cholesterol that day is just too high.
Sebastian Gard, SVP, Director of Social Media, Arnold Worldwide
At the risk of being laughed off this column by the other participants, I think the next big thing in digital marketing is the original big thing–display advertising. The conditions are almost right for this format to crawl out of the primordial ooze and finally be useful to both consumers and advertisers. The history of online business shows that relevance and convenience always win, and we are starting to see the data-driven principles that built companies like Google, Amazon, eBay, and Facebook being used by online advertisers.
The problem is that right now, this kind of programmatic, data-driven advertising is in our industry's version of the "uncanny valley"–a term used in robotics to describe how artificial faces that are very close to looking human cause revulsion in us, but ones that don't try to look too human seem fine. In the same way, our current data-driven ads often seem "creepy" because they are being served to people using data about them that's usually not quite right and being shown in formats that look too much like ads. In the next few years, enough data and technology will finally be available, and enough data-driven CMOs will be in place, for us to cross the uncanny valley and use display advertising simply as a way to syndicate useful, relevant information and offers to consumers.
Jeff Hasen, CMO, Mobivity
I see meaningful advances coming in technology that provide seamless experiences. Our interests and even our needs are in pausing, then resuming our lives as we move from one technology or device to another. Amazon gets this with Kindle. I read on a Kindle, then later go into the Kindle app on my iPad. The page where I left off is waiting for me there. Easy and tremendously helpful. Of course, everyone is promising this experience, including Microsoft with its latest reorganization. But the tech world really hasn't delivered on it in a big way yet. And it needs to. Consumers not only want it, they are increasingly demanding it.
Itai Asseo, VP, Group Creative Architect & North America Lead for Digitas Labs, Digitas
Privacy in the digital age is something of an oxymoron. It doesn't exist. Period. Consumers have grown to accept that. The amount of data that is collected about each and every one of us is immense. But the minute we step away from our screens and walk into a brick-and-mortar store, coffee shop, or concert venue, we are invisible. The next big thing in digital marketing is bringing the digital experience into our still-analog life, and by doing so, completing the circle between our actions on- and offline. Emerging technology around face detection, traffic analysis (over WiFi and Bluetooth), and smart digital marketing will change that, and our offline privacy will be a thing of the past.
Kasey Skala, Digital Communication Manager, Great Clips
The next big thing in digital is about mobility and truly personalized experiences that are deep and rich. There’s a ton of talk about the importance of mobile, but the real power comes when we stop thinking about devices and focus on mobility and providing personalized experiences to on-the-go consumers. A lot of the focus right now is on how we gather data. Moving forward, it’ll be about what we do with that data. Take Nike, for example, with their FuelBand. The amount of information they are collecting is amazing. The play moving forward is for a Target or Campbell’s Soup to come in and act on that data while the consumer is in their store.
Bob Goodman, SVP, Director of User Experience, Arnold Worldwide
The next big thing is not a consumer device but the digitally enabled, personalized in-store shopping experience. We're on the cusp of seeing in-store shopping experiences transformed by big data, personalization, and touch-enabled POS advertising and shelving systems. Steps toward the digital in-store experience are already happening everyday when someone uses their smartphone as a personal shopping assistant. As that knowledge starts to live in the retailer's in-store environment rather than just in the customer's pocket, the bricks-and-mortar and online experience begin to fuse. Retailers will be able to showcase products that are more relevant to a specific consumer and offer targeted promotions the way e-tailers have been doing since Amazon came on the scene in 1995.
For stores that can support a warmer, more human touch, the customer-facing staff could be equipped with this knowledge, similar to the Apple in-store experience today. A nonintrusive way for customers to opt into this personalization is by smartphone, loyalty card, or FOB. Facial recognition is an intrusive alternative, but one that customers may find creepy. A major obstacle to these retail innovations is the thicket of legacy back-office tech that continues to power retail today. The physical design of most stores is also not set up for digital displays and will need to shift in ways small and large over the next years to support a more seamless online and off experience. But specialty stores to and niche retailers will probably lead investment in a retooled personalized retail experience.
What this means to digital marketers is that stores and their way of prioritizing and selling products starts to operate much more like effective online display and e-commerce strategies. The in-store retail experience begins to represent not just one but many targeted media channels. It offers brands a special advantage of being able to convert an immediate in-store promotion into a purchase without the delayed gratification of ordering online and waiting for your product to arrive.